The Hero Coffee Lake Deserves

Intel’s 8th Generation Core processor, code named Coffee Lake, is living up to the hype. The gaming performance and clock speed potential of the Intel Coffee Lake “K” series is unprecedented. Some of you (those lucky enough to get your hands on a CPU) may still be wondering which motherboard should you consider putting your Coffee Lake beast into? We submit for your review, the ASUS Maximus X Hero. The ASUS Maximus X Hero comes in near the top of the ASUS Z370 chipset lineup, priced at $259.99 shipped. The ASUS Maximus X Hero is said to be the "sweet spot" for gamers and overclockers as it should have all the features you need and doesn't have 802.11ac wireless. If you need an Intel Z370 board with Wi-Fi you'll need to spend an extra $20 and get the ASUS ROG MAXIMUS X Hero (WI-FI AC) version that costs $279.99 shipped. Going above this price gets into the yet to be released ASUS Maximus X Code and ASUS Maximus X Formula. The X Formula adds watercooled VRM heatsinks, larger PCH heatsink, and black "armor" that covers the board to help resist heat. Sitting at the top of ASUS product stack is the aptly named ASUS Maximus X Apex. It is aimed squarely at overclockers and is priced at $349.99. Going down the stack from the X Hero, we have the ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-E Gaming which takes away the ESS Sabre DAC and some of the thermal sensor headers for a price of $209.99, including AC/Wifi. The ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-F drops the Wifi module and one of the two USB 3.1 controllers for $194.99. Below this price point is the ROG microATX and Mini-ITX offerings where the form factor begins to really determine the amount of features equipped. Also below $194.99 are the ASUS Prime series of motherboards, which are great motherboards, but make some feature changes in order to appeal to more price conscious consumers. After wearing out the F5 button on our keyboard for the last several weeks, we are happy to say that our testing is with a retail sample of the Intel Core i7-8700K acquired from Microcenter. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_Main The ASUS Maximus X Hero is of course based on Intel’s Z370 chipset, the only current LGA 1151 socket supporting Coffee Lake processers. It is an ATX design with a plethora of features, sure to please many. Below are the specifications and a list of features, which we will detail in the pages that follow. ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero Specifications
CPU Intel Socket 1151 for 8th Generation Core Processors
Chipset Intel Z370
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 2666/2400/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory 2800 MHz - 4133 MHz Overclock Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
On Board Graphics Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort 1.2 ports Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA 2-Way SLI Technology Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX Technology
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8) 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x4 mode) 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1
Storage 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode) 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode) 6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s) Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10 Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready
Audio ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220 Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input SupremeFX Shielding Technology ESS® ES9023P Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback Audio Feature : Gold-plated jacks Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel Sonic Radar III Sonic Studio III
USB Ports ASMedia USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller : 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 front panel connector port(s) ASMedia® USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller : 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 port(s) (2 at back panel, , Type-A + USB Type-CTM) Intel Z370 Chipset : 6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 port(s) (4 at back panel, +blue, 2 at mid-board) Intel® Z370 Chipset : 6 x USB 2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, +black, 4 at mid-board)
ROG Exclusive Features ROG RAMCache II ROG CPU-Z ROG CloneDrive Pre-mounted I/O Shield MemOK! Button Slow Mode Overwolf GameFirst IV Extreme Engine Digi+ : - MicroFine Alloy Chokes - NexFET™ Power Block MOSFET - 10K Black Metallic Capacitors Mem TweakIt ROG Extreme OC kit : - ReTry button - Safe Boot button - Start button - Reset button - LN2 Mode KeyBot II - One-click Overclocking - X.M.P. - DirectKey - ClrCMOS - Power On UEFI BIOS features : - O.C. Profile - Tweakers' Paradise - ROG SSD Secure Erase ROG RAMDisk Extreme Tweaker USB BIOS Flashback Overclocking Protection : - ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 5-Way Optimization by Dual Intelligent Processors 5 : - 5-Way Optimization tuning key perfectly consolidates TPU, EPU, DIGI+ VRM, Fan Expert 4, and Turbo App AURA : - Aura Lighting Control - Aura RGB Strip Headers - Aura Lighting Effects Synchronization with compatible ASUS ROG devices - Aura Addressable Strip Header(s) ASUS Exclusive Features : - AI Suite 3 - Disk Unlocker ASUS EZ DIY : - ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3 - ASUS EZ Flash 3 CPU Installation Tool - Three-step simplicity and safety ASUS Q-Design : - ASUS Q-Code - ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED) - ASUS Q-Slot - ASUS Q-DIMM - ASUS Q-Connector Gaming Aesthetics : - 3D printing friendly - AURA-RGB Lighting
Back I/O Ports 1 x DisplayPort 1 x HDMI 1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s) 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A + USB Type-CT 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (blue) 2 x USB 2.0 1 x Optical S/PDIF out 1 x Clear CMOS button(s) 1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s) 5 x Gold-plated audio jacks
Form Factor ATX Form Factor 12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
  Let's take a look at the board layout! 

ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero Key Features

The ASUS Maximus Hero line has been highly regarded and recommended in its previous incarnations, so let’s take a look at what this iteration has to offer. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_Box The box art is very clean with some nice holographic lettering along with some of the features that the board supports. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_3 The board is a great looking grey and silver color, carried on from the Maximus motherboards in the last few generations. For those curious, we stuck a GSkill memory kit in with black heatspreaders to give an idea of what the combination looks like together. Just under the CPU socket, there is a metal heatsink for an M.2 drive to be used underneath. The x16 lane PCIe slots have a thin metal wrap on them to improve strength and prevent failure from heavy graphics cards. The metal VRM heatsinks look great and should cool well enough with just a case fan blowing near by. The PCH heatsink is quite big, and if there is one place that I would love to have additional cooling on my ASUS Maximus VIII Hero motherboard, it is the PCH. Pre-Mounted I/O Shield ASUS_Max_X_Hero_IO ASUS has long been a leader in motherboard design and features. One of our favorite ASUS motherboard innovations is the “padded” I/O shield. This offered a premium look and feel to something mundane that few people ever see once the computer is built. With the ASUS Maximus X Hero, the I/O shield is now “pre-mounted.” This is a very handy feature in my opinion. I cannot tell you the number of times over the years that I have forgotten to install the I/O shield or forgot to ship it with a motherboard I sold. I have misplaced them and installed them with the metal “fingers” stuck inside of the network port, only to have to pull everything apart and get it right. So, for me, a pre-mounted I/O shield is something I am fully on board with as it will save time getting the system up and working. I/O The ASUS Maximus X Hero comes equipped with a single DisplayPort a max capable resolution of 4096x2304@60Hz. There is also an HDMI port supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz. The single network interface is supplied by the Intel Z370 chipset, the Intel I219V. There are two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A + USB Type-CTM. There a total of four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. For audio there are a couple of options. There is the usual optical S/PDIF out, as well as 5 gold plated audio jacks. We will talk more about the impressive audio codec that ASUS has implemented on the Maximus X Hero later. Some handy features to have are the Clear CMOS button, for those overclocks that are a little too ambitious. The other button is the BIOS Flashback button. If you have never used the BIOS Flashback feature it is great. You can fully flash your BIOS without having to have a CPU or memory in the motherboard.   Fan Control   ASUS_Max_X_Hero_2 We saw the addition of a dedicated PWM/DC header for controlling a water pump with the ASUS ROG Maximus VIII line for Intel Z170. ASUS expanded on this with the ROG Maximus IX, and carries it over to the ROG Maximus X Hero, by adding two thermal probe headers onto the motherboard, as well as a water flow sensor header. These can be monitored in either the UEFI or in the Fan Xpert 4 software utility. There are a total of 6 PWM/DC fan headers on board, each of which can be configured to react to any of the three onboard and the two aforementioned temperature sensors. If more sensors or fans are needed you’ll need to look into the ASUS Fan Header extension card that adds three PWM/DC fan headers and three thermal-probe headers that can be configured to set off your fans however you would like. RGB RBG lighting has completely taken over the DIY computing space. These are not the LED’s and cold cathode tubes from the mid-2000’s. These are very customizable and advanced lighting solutions. Not feeling the blue lighting that your PC is putting out? Switch it all to red with a click of your mouse. Want to be able to tell if your PC is running warm? You can configure the lighting to change color based on one of the thermal probes on the motherboard. The ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero gets into the action with three RGB lights on board that can be configured to change appearance in 9 different fashions. ASUS also includes three headers on board to control RGB light strips, fans, coolers, and even case lighting. These headers can be controlled through ASUS Aura to synchronize with the motherboard lighting and provide a uniform appearance.   Bundle ASUS_Max_X_Hero_Bundle Some of the highlights of the bundle included with the ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero are; four SATA cables, one extension cable for RGB strips (80cm), one extension cable for addressable LED, a CPU installation tool, an ROG coaster, and several ROG stickers.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero BIOS/UEFI

ASUS_ROG_Maximus_X_Hero_Bio If you have used an ASUS motherboard in the last four years, you are probably familiar with their BIOS layout. It has not changed much since Z97 and X99. The default setting of "Advanced Mode" is a welcome change, and upon first boot up, you are greeted with the above screen. One thing you will likely want to change on this first screen is ASUS MultiCore Enhancement. Setting it from Auto to Disabled prevents the motherboard from doing any kung fu overclock magic to your CPU and memory. As you can see, the screen grabs were taken during our investigation into overclocking our Intel i7-8700K. Rest assured, the numbers from our review today were completed with no CPU overclocking, including MultiCore Enhancement disabled. ASUS__Max_X_Hero_Bio_2 The screen is found in Overclocking Presets and can provide you with some potentially stable CPU and memory tweaks if you have the right combination of memory kit and cooling. ASUS__Max_X_Hero_Bio_3 Back to the primary "Extreme Tweaker" page, we can see more familiar settings. Here you can set DRAM ratios, frequency, and enter into DRAM Timing control. We will not be getting into DRAM timing as there are a vast number of options. ASUS__Max_X_Hero_Bio_4   ASUS__Max_X_Hero_Bio_5 Further down the Tweaker page, we see options for changing voltages for CPU core, cache, and DRAM among others. ASUS__Max_X_Hero_Bio_7 Over to the Monitor page, we get the full read out of temperatures for the on-board sensors. Note that the T_Sensor Temperature is for the probe header located near the bottom right of the motherboard. This is a slight issue that we are following up ASUS on, and that is that despite including three probe headers on the ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero motherboard, the T_Sensor is the only one of which that can be configured for your fans to be triggered from. The W_IN and W_OUT are simply for monitoring in both the UEFI and ASUS FanXpert 4. To add a bit of frustration to the issue, ASUS has added a header for their Fan Card extension board, which you can simply plug in and configure fan speeds based on the probes you would add to that board. The ASUS Fan Card extension is not shipped with the ASUS Maximus X Hero, but can be purchased at Newegg when they haven't sold out of them! They are in fairly high demand. ASUS__Max_X_Hero_Bio_9 Scrolling all the way down to the bottom will get you to the Q-Fan Tuning page. You can configure fans connected to the CPU or CPU_OPT headers to run on one of the three pre-defined profiles (Silent, Normal, or Turbo) or to set them up manually. As you can see in the screenshot, there are options for changing how quickly fans will spin up and spin down. When dealing with processors like the i7-8700K which can go from cool idle temperatures to 60c in the blink of an eye, configuring your fans manually is almost a must to avoid them annoyingly spinning up and down very quickly. ASUS__Max_X_Hero_Bio_10 And our last UEFI BIOS screen shot shows the options for triggering fans connected to the "Chassis" headers. They can be set to respond to one of the 3 onboard sensors, the user added probe (T_sensor), and the 3 sensors you would get from the add on ASUS fan card.

ASUS Aura RGB Software

ASUS has bundled in their Aura software for controlling both the on-board RGB LED's as well as the bits that can be added on to the motherboard. ASUS has been working with several hardware vendors to certify that their products to work with Aura. Visit this link for a short list of partners! ASUS_Max_X_Hero_Aura1 As you can see there a number of configuration options available to suit your mood, with the default being a gradient change of the spectrum. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_Aura2 You can of course change the color and style of lighting that can configured, including brightness and saturation. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_Aura3 Here you can see the areas that the style and and color can be set to. There are more options available than we can get into here, but needless to say, you should have no problem configuring your system to shine just the way you'd like it to. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_RGB Here is a quick photo of our test system with the RGB lights caught in between a violet to blue transition.  

Our CPU Test Systems

Test System All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit version 1709 (Fall Creators Update) and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. All components were shared between the two test systems, aside from the CPU and Motherboard of course. NVIDIA driver 388.13 was used for all testing. Benchmark_Settings ASUS_Max_X_Hero_Test_System
The Intel Z170 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing
Processor Intel i7-7700K
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Hero
Memory EVGA SuperSC 16GB 2 x 8GB DDR4-3200
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC GAMING ACX 3.0
Solid-State Drive Samsung SSD 960 EVO 1TB Click Here
Cooling Thermaltake Water 3.0 Click Here
Power Supply Corsair RM1000x Click Here
Case Corsair Air 540 Click Here
Operating System Windows 10 64-bit Click Here
Monitor ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q

Memory Performance

AIDA64 5.92 Memory & Cache Benchmark: link

AIDA64 is an industry-leading system information tool, loved by PC enthusiasts around the world, which not only provides extremely detailed information about both hardware and installed software, but also helps users diagnose issues and offers benchmarks to measure the performance of the computer. aida64 v.570   Maximus_X_aida64_memory Aida64 shows us that the ASUS Maximus X Hero has dialed the 3200MHz memory speed and timings in nicely, offering increased memory performance over the outgoing ASUS Maximus VIII Hero with the i7-7700K.

3DMark FireStrike and Unigine Superposition

3DMark FireStrike – link

  3dmark-fire-strike-screensh Futuremark Firestrike is a popular gaming performance benchmark that can bring even the most powerful PC to its knees. The i7-8700K pulls ahead of the i7-7700K in 3DMark Firestrike overall score. However, this is due solely to physics performance, as the game tests below bare out. ASUS_Maximus_X_Firestrike2_1 You can see that in the game tests that the CPU's perform nearly identically due to the GPU bottleneck. Surprisingly, the i7-8700K is slightly behind in the game tests. The difference is less than 1% and though it is within the margin of error, is repeatable.

Unigine Superposition – link 

In April 2017, Unigine launched their new extreme performance and stability test for PC hardware: video card, power supply, cooling system. This new test is called Superposition and it is a great test for graphics cards even at default settings. The addition of CPU cores does not really help out as you will see below. We ran the test at the default setting of 1080p Medium. Superposition_settings ASUS_Maximus_X_Superpo_1 We see again that the i7-8700K is just behind the i7-7700K, though the difference is less than 1% and within the margin of error.

Rise of the Tomb Raider and Rift Performance

Rise of the Tomb Raider - Rise of the Tomb Raider is approaching two years old but is still a great benchmark for processors and graphics cards being released in 2017. As you can see below, we cranked up the settings to see just how well the game would run with our new 6 core CPU and shiny new ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero motherboard.   ASUS_Maximus_X_TombRaider_1 Here we see the i7-8700K claim its first victory over the i7-7700K. There are a few places during the benchmark that can make use of the additional CPU cores found on the new Coffee Lake processor. RIFT: Prophecy of Ahnket rift_vostigar_peaks RIFT is an epic fantasy adventure set in the magical world of Telara. As an Ascended hero, you’ll battle against legions of elemental invaders, purge evils from dungeons and raids, and explore your way across the vast planes of existence. In 2016 RIFT's engine was updated to support multi-core and 64-bit processing, increasing performance between 25-50%. While the game engine still craves IPC and clock speed, it can also benefit from more than 2 CPU cores. 4 cores with SMT/Hyperthreading seems to be the sweet spot with the current engine. Our benchmark run consisted of running through the recently released zone, Vostigar Peaks. [caption id="attachment_200104" align="aligncenter" width="645"]ASUS_Maximus_X_Rift_1 ASUS_Maximus_X_Rift_1[/caption] MMO's are typically bound by absolute core speed, with little to no performance increase when adding additional CPU cores. With the various settings set to the low preset in Rift, we appear to be bumping up against the same limitation on both systems, core speed across all available cores. The new i7-8700K is able to squeeze out a few more frames per second, possibly due to the two additional cores, the additional cache, and additional memory bandwidth. However, the load is not heavy enough to cause it drop down to the lowest speed all core turbo bin (4.3GHz). The 8700K and 7700K are both running the game at 4.4GHz across all cores. See the photo below for this in action. Rift_Utilization Let's take a look at overclocking and wrap this up!

PUBG

Back in September, PLAYERUNKNOWNN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) released a patch with optimizations that improved performance for those running a CPU with six or more CPU cores in their gaming rigs. PUBG uses Unreal Engine 4, which is capable of producing solid image quality, but can be rather taxing on your PC hardware. This Early Access game developed by Bluehole, Inc. and as of November 7th, has sold over 20 million copies and recently recorded over 2 million concurrent players. So what sort of performance can be gained in PUBG from moving the i7-7700K to the i7-8700K? pubg We tested the game with both the lowest in-game settings and the highest in-game settings to get an idea of the difference in performance. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_PUBG_1 There is quite a difference in performance between the lowest and highest settings in PUBG. At low settings, the game is at times GPU limited by the EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC. The PUBG game engine is capped at 144FPS and is usually the other limiting factor. At the highest settings, CPU performance is bottle-necked entirely by the EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 SC. The i7-8700K was again able to squeeze out a 3 frames per second advantage. See the break down below on CPU vs GPU utilization on Low settings.   ASUS_Max_X_Hero_PUBG_Util

ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero Overclocking

The ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero motherboard is near the top of the product stack and should prove to be a stable overclocking platform for several years to come. We took our Intel Core i7-8700K up to what we consider safe settings for 24/7 operation, trying to stay below 90c during Prime, Intel XTU, and ASUS ROG RealBench tests. Where did that put us exactly? ASUS_Max_X_Hero_5GHz How about 5.0GHz at 1.3 volts? There is certainly more speed left in this specific processor (particularly if we were to "delid" it), and only some processors will be able to reach these speeds, but only you can determine if it is worth the extra heat/noise/wear & tear. For quick benchmark sessions, 5.2GHz should be possible. For day to day system use, most enthusiasts tend to stick to more conservative settings. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_VRM Unfortunately with this being a recently released platform, the usual monitoring tools like HWInfo 64 and HWMonitor are going to need an update to help us sort out which one of these sensors is for VRM temperatures. ASUS_Max_X_Hero_VRM_Temp Running through ASUS ROG RealBench at 5GHz 1.30 volts, with just the CPU radiator fan pulling air out of the VRM area, the VRM temperature is absolutely not a concern at 90.5F or 32c. ASUS_Maximus_X_Firestrike_O Our Firestrike results improved just over 3% from the overclock to 5GHz. ASUS_Maximus_X_FireOC2 The Firestrike game tests results are mixed, clearly we are GPU bound at this point. Demonstrating that even with an ultra fast CPU, your GPU is most times going to be the important factor when it comes to gaming.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero Conclusion

Our time with the ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero has been nothing short of great. I have had several gaming sessions using this motherboard and CPU combination and handles both games and normal desktop use flawlessly. The blazing fast single core speed makes mundane tasks a snap. The i7-8700K is a great combination of speed and multi-core processing, giving you a great compromise between High End Desktop "moar cores" at the fastest single core processing you can get in 2017. This is an ecosystem that should prove to have the sort of longevity that we have seen with Intel Sandy Bridge. While the i7-8700K isn't a massive increase for most gamers over the less than year old i7-7700K, it still represents the best all around gaming processor that you can get your hands on at the end of 2017. That said, it's a great system to hang onto until mainstream game developers can code their games to leverage 8+ CPU cores and that will likely be a number of years away. ASUS_Max_X_Hero The ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero has all of the important features system builders are looking for these days, including RGB component control. Browse through gaming forums or go to a LAN party (yes, those still happen) and it will be near impossible to find a system without RGB lighting of some sort. To be able to control a large portion of that lighting from a single interface is a welcome addition to many. Other features to keep in mind are the M.2 heatsink with the ROG logo etched into it and metallic shielding around the PCIe slots to help prevent breakage. The audio solution is a step up over previous generations of the Maximus and ASUS has included a DAC for headphone users. Little touches like metal heatsinks for the VRM's and the integrated I/O shield are welcome additions to an already stellar performing motherboard. Memory speed is enhanced by the ASUS "T topology" which optimizes the traces to each slot, allowing up to 4133MHz operation (officially). Navigating the UEFI BIOS is one of the most important considerations for an overclocking motherboard, and no one does it better than ASUS. As we stated previously, ASUS have not changed their layout much over the last few generations, which is a good thing. Settings are logically placed to where you expect to find them. Fan control has been great on ASUS motherboards for some time now, and while other manufacturers are starting to catch up, ASUS continues to innovate with additional thermal sensor probes for monitoring critical hardware not on the motherboard itself. As we mentioned on the BIOS page, making the W_IN and W_OUT target sensors for controlling system fans would be an improvement in this area. We have reached out to ASUS on this and are hoping to hear back if it is a possibility. The ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero is feature packed and has quality VRM's. It looks great and performs well and is one of their best selling motherboards of previous generations. The MSRP for the ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero is $259.99 shipped, with the AC/Wifi edition coming in at $279.99 shipped. When you consider its position in the world of Z370 chipset motherboards, it provides a great combination of gaming features and all of the overclocking features needed for a moderate price. Above this price point things start getting complicated with compromises to one feature set in favor of the other. One such board, the ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex, is built primarily for breaking overclock records, and loses some of the gaming features of the Hero boards. LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line: If you are banking on overclocking your new i7-8700K processor to 5GHz along with high speed memory and game on it all day, plan to RGB "all of the things" and want them sync'd, the ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero is certainly worthy of your money.